I think sometimes we struggle with how best to help people. The easy thing to do is not always the best thing to do. If someone asks for money the easiest thing is to simply hand it over. It’s easy for us wealthy Americans to open up our wallet and give someone a couple of bucks for a sandwich. (And to hope that’s what they buy with those couple of dollars). I’m not against that. But I also think this is one of the lowest forms of help. The best way you can help someone is to develop a relationship with that person. To show your compassion by becoming involved in their lives, helping them become the best version of themselves. I once knew an elder who was asked for money for an emergency need. He gave it, but he also said he wanted to come over to help with some financial planning. This elder helped a young family work out a budget and begin saving, so that they would be better prepared for the next emergency. He got involved and gave help that was effective. This godly leader helped the family be more confident the next time they read Luke 16:11: “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”
We all know how difficult managing money can be. It takes time and discipline to save it up, but much less time to spend. And there are so many things that seem like needs. Our character grows as we work hard and make cuts and give generously to God. This is good. However, there are some who have a harder time with this than others. Blessings of God come down, and yet somehow credit card bills just go up and up! Have you ever given to someone who said it was an emergency and next week they buy a new truck? I could tell you stories! Instead of working hard and saving, some try to get many things the easy way – a way that usually involves unnecessary dependence on others.
The Bible takes a hard line against this kind of attitude. Paul said, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). As in, if they don’t bring some fried chicken to the potluck (because they can’t afford it – because they’d rather sit at home then work) then you are justified in hiding the cherry pie when they come through. Ouch! That seems harsh, but it also speaks to what kind of help is effective. Is it effective to enable people to live in a way that wouldn’t please God? Is it helpful to promote and subsidize idleness? Or is it more helpful to show people by teaching, by example, and by loving correction that working with all our heart in whatever we do (see Colossians 3:23) is the way to honor God? So, please continue to be generous even though you know your gen- erosity may be abused. But also become a mentor. Guide people into a life that pleases God. If some brother or sister is not living this way, “do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother” (2 Thessalonians 3:15).